Films often mirror society’s fears. Take Die Hard and Rising Sun; at the time the big fear was that the Japanese were going to buy up the world as shown by the largess of the Japanese in both stories.
It’s the same thing in the Japanese film industry. To solve deep rooted problems Japanese movies often take on present day problems and present radical solutions. While not a complete list the following are some of the most recent films dealing with what the Japanese view as serious problems.
Problem: Japan’s high suicide rate
Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. In 2009 suicides rose to nearly 33,000 making 2009 the 12th year that suicides topped the 30,000 mark. That’s about 90 people a day jumping in front of trains or drinking toxic cocktails to off themselves.
In the movie Ikigami to combat this and to make their citizens more productive the Japanese government introduced the “national prosperity law.” The new law made it mandatory for every child when entering school to be given a vaccination shot to combat disease. Randomly placed in some of the shots are small vials that at a predetermined time will release a poison and kill their host. There is a window between the ages of 18-25 that the poison might be released. Thus young adults between 18-25 live life not knowing if they are the ones who will be killed and thus learn the value of life.
Problem: Out of control kids
Whether its media hype or not in Japan schools and their students are regarded as out of control. At one end of the spectrum are schools who go over board attempting to get their students into University leading to one case the principal committing suicide after it was discovered his school had cheated the system. On the other side are schools that are regarded as out of control discipline wise. Bullying is seen as rampant and there are several TV dramas that in an over the top way try and portray this so called “trend”. In real life one school principal hanged himself after he was reprimanded for his slow response to a case of bullying at his school.
In the manga, of the same name, the back story is Japan is a Socialist Republic out to control the population through fear. But many people view the Battle Royale as a radical solution to out of control kids. In the movie, school classrooms are randomly selected for the “The Program” a popular event in Japan were students kill each other off on a deserted island until there is only one left. Explosive collars that can be remotely detonated ensure cooperation and smooth game play. The plot is quite similar to Modern Gladiator Reality TV genre except that the kids are innocent as they are chosen at random and not prisoners.
Problem: Victim rights
Victims of crime in Japan often feel let down by the justice system in Japan. Killers get off with technicalities or find fame in their crimes.
In the movie Freesia to allow families to seek justice and cut down on costs by eliminating the justice system the Japanese government has resurrected the “adauchi”, “katakiuchi” (敵討ち) laws (Eng:Revenge laws). Before the Meiji restoration saw the creation of a modern penal code Japan used to have a series of official vengeance laws to allow the Japanese to seek justice. In Freesia citizens can hire professionals to do the killing for them or hire “bodyguards” in case someone takes out an official hit on them.
Battle Royale comes off as a LETS ENJOY TERRORISM promotional video. Good series though and I intend to get the manga someday. To think the same guy directed the Yakuza papers series. It is so weird that his son finished the BR sequal; my god the twists in the sequel and SONY F’N CHIBA!